Newbie planning build

Discussion in 'Smoke Houses' started by ribrat, Sep 27, 2013.

  1. ribrat

    ribrat Newbie

    I'm new to the forum and smokehouse builds so I would like to use this opportunity to pick everyone's brain with some questions. First is insulation. If the unit is lined with cement board will foam board insulation be safe? Second what's a good way to determine what size and type of burner to use? Is an electric burner more expensive to operate vs a propane one? Thanks for any input
  2. hambone1950

    hambone1950 Master of the Pit Group Lead

    Hey man. I just jumped in because I felt bad no one has answered after more than 24 hours.
    I have no real experience with smokehouses , but I have read a ton about them. I am assuming that you did a search of this forum for smokehouse builds as there are a butt load of them on here. You can get actual design tips on the Internet....YouTube and whatnot. If you line with cement board I feel pretty sure your foam insulation will be safe. As far as propane vs electric I would think electric would be cheaper. BUT with propane you are cooking with fire. With electric you are cooking with heat. It WILL make a difference in how your food comes out. ( this is my opinion)... Wood is the best fuel....charcoal is next best....propane is next and (IMO) electric is last. Not that electric smokers are bad. TONS of folks use them. I would use one , but I'd have to use a smoke generator and I just don't want to get into that....I use charcoal. But that's me.
    What will you make the outside from? Brick? Wood? An old refrigerator? When you start to build it , post some picture....and check out some of the other BBQ forums....there's lots of smokehouses to be seen. Good luck , bro.
  3. s2k9k

    s2k9k AMNPS Test Group

    What do you plan on smoking in it? What temp range are you looking for? Where is it going to be located?
    I just built one and was going to go propane then started thinking of the safety issue so I went electric and am glad I did. I set it up with a PID and I have complete control of the temp and can program how I want it to run from start to finish. I only use it for sausage and jerky so I needed a good temp controller because I didn't want to do it manually.
    I have a thread on here about my build but I messed something up last night and now all my photos are missing!
  4. ribrat

    ribrat Newbie

    Thanks for your replies. The house im planning will sit outside away from anything subceptable to damage. Will most likly use a wood outside sheeting like T111.i will use it for BBQ ribs pork Butt or beef brisket maybe some jerky and turkey legs whatever sounds good u know. my thoughts r a propane burner with a cast iron pan for wood chips. thinking of a heat range up to 200 to 250 degrees. will use old oven racks in it as well. my cooking chamber should be like 25"x 18" x 39" nothing set in stone yet.also the inside will be lined in cememt board and aluminun sheeting.
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2013
  5. dward51

    dward51 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    On an overnight smoke at 225-250* the cement board will eventually reach 225-250* and the surface of the foam underneath will also. 

    If you are building it from scratch and don't think you need high temp mineral wool insulation, you can use regular household fiberglass insulation that is unfaced (no paper or other coating on the outside, just insulation batts).  It's easy to find and dirt cheap.  It will handle those temp ranges no problem where foam might be questionable.

    As to the burner, there is a single head burner that Northern Tool sells that has three fire rings which a lot of people have used in their smoke houses here.  I don't have one, but others have reported good results and the ability to dial it way down for lower temp smoking of sausage.

    The part number on their website is 330973.  Sorry I can't link you to the item page, but I don't think they are a forum sponsor.  Just go there and enter the part number or search for "heavy duty single burner propane stove". 

    PS - Northern has them on sale for $29.99 right now! Here is a photo of what I'm talking about.

    Last edited: Sep 28, 2013
    ribrat likes this.
  6. ribrat

    ribrat Newbie

    if i go with the fiberglass insulation should i not use the cement board as a lining inside?
  7. dward51

    dward51 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    You can still use cement board inside. 

    If you cover the cement board with sheet metal like you first indicated it will be much easier to clean (to the extent that one "cleans" a smoker anyway).  The sheet metal and cement board will reach the temperature of the smoke chamber at some point.  The mass of the cement board make this a slow process but it will get there.  The job of the insulation is to keep the heat inside the chamber and not let it be conducted out.  So you need some kind of insulation for efficiency, although you can overcome heat leakage by brute force by adding more heat (ie bigger electric element or bigger propane burner).  A well insulated smoker is also a well behaved smoker as once you dial in the desired temperature, they will usually stay there as long as you have fuel.

    Another added plus of the cement board is it also acts like a heat sink due to it's mass.  This makes temperature swings a little less drastic as it will give off heat if the temps drop, and tend to absorb heat as the temps rise, slowing the drop or rise.  Temps can still swing, but the mass helps moderate it a little for minor swings.

    I think you have a overall good plan and there have been many a smokehouse built with T111 plywood outside and cement board covered with metal sheeting on the inside which other members have built.
  8. mudslinger2

    mudslinger2 Fire Starter

    Rock wool insulation is the way to go, it's only a few dollars more than regular insulation, has a higher R-value, is very dense and is made for heat.

    This is my third smokehouse build and the first one with rock wool , the difference is night and day. The second smokehouse was with regular insulation and when I took it apart the insulation was not the same thickness as when I put it in and seemed to fall apart when touched.

    Definitely use the cement board ( durock or wonderboard ) do not use hardi backer. and as far as covering the  inside  use ceramic tile it is cheaper than any other material easy to clean and holds heat great. I just got tile for my new smoker. on sale at home depot for .67 cents a sq ft. and for a burner you should choose one that has the controls separate from the burner that way their not inside the cooker.

    Keep us posted
  9. ribrat

    ribrat Newbie

    Thank you Dward51 and mudslinger2. if i chose to line with tile would it matter what type of tile (ie floor, wall, or should  it be fire brick type). also what thickness of cement board would be better suited. 1/4 or 1/2?
  10. mudslinger2

    mudslinger2 Fire Starter

    As a contractor I would use the 1/2 inch cement board,  1/4 inch is good if you are going to cover an existing surface it's not very rigid on it's own, Also it is only a dollar more per sheet.  For the tile any will work, there all fired at well over a 1000 degrees use what you got handy. If you got to buy them get floor tiles there generally cheaper and more durable then wall tiles. The tiles I just picked up at home depot where 67 cents a sq ft
  11. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    ribrat, morning.....  With the size you noted, 25x18x39, I'm of the opinion, a gas burner will be too much for the smoker...  Too many Btu's.....  Look at S2K's build with the 110V electric element...  That should give you adequate control and plenty of heat...  

    About the insulation... check the max. temp it will handle...  eventually, the cement board will conduct the heat to the outside to the insulation..  

    As a side note, find shelving before you build the smoker...   unless you plan on home made shelving.....   

  12. jarjarchef

    jarjarchef Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    ribrat welcome to SMF and a great adventure of building a smokehouse.

    The burner that was shown from Northern Tool is what i have. A couple things to think about. My smokehouse is approx 72"h x 24"d x 32"w. It is made with plywood and no insulation. Without even trying I am able to get to temps over 300 degrees only using the center burner. I found out later it is a low pressure burner, still no issue getting up to temp. They sell an adjustable pressure regulator at Tractor Supply and it works like a needle valve, love it.

    Shelves: I designed mine around some i could get cheap at a big box store. They are a PITA to clean. So think about that part when picking them out. Mine are not able to slide out. I really wish they could.

    Design: Pretty simple it is a box with the heat at the bottom. Make a heat sync/diffuser plate that you can put a catch pan on for the drippings. make it if you can a little wider then your food surface. Makes cleaning easier. Sliding shelves for the food a must in my book. Air flow and ability to close off vents if needed. Mine are way to big and too much air flow. So my wood chunks will flare up and wind causes issues.

    Insulation: I am not a fan of the cement board after doing a lot more looking into it. They will vary in materials. some even have a type of fiberglass to reinforce it. Not sure how they will react to heat and fumes. I have actually laid ceramic tile around mine. As stated they are already heat treated and not too overly expensive. Look at the clearance areas in Big Box stores.....

    Ask if i can help in any way.

  13. ribrat

    ribrat Newbie

    Lovin all the input guys. im definatly in the right place. acouple things i think i should add to my needs for my smoker. One i plan to use my house in a northern pennsylvania winter which sees lots of snow and temps well below 30 degrees. i dont want to run electic to it and im sure an exstention cord may not be the best in order to use a propane burner what size smoke house should be on my mind? also it sounds like maybe cement board may not be ideal either. so would it be safe to line the inner chamber with pine 1 by. and sheet metal? between the outside and insulation. also does anyone have experience using a turkey fryer burner in their smoker?
  14. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

     they are way too big and produce too many Btu's....  You won't be able to adjust it low enough.....  
  15. jarjarchef

    jarjarchef Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I would agree that a high pressure burner may create too much heat and be hard to control temps. It has been done tho. I use the burner below from Northern Tool. I found out later it is a low pressure burner and that explained some of the issues I was having even with a needle valve. I replaced the high pressure regulator with an adjustable pressure regulator from Tractor Supply that is pictured below. It works much better now.

    As stated before you need to figure out what you are going to be using it for and design around that. If you are going to do only lower cook temps for sausage, cheese or other cured items. Then going all plywood with some tiles to shield the bottom areas you will be fine. If you plan on going temps above 275 for long periods of time I would then suggest shielding the inner part with some type of thin heat safe metal. Here is the link to a very nice build that was lined with metal.  (if you notice he is using the same burner as below). Mine has taken a beating due to the regulator being the wrong one and cooking at higher temps.......

    Size can vary.... look at what you will use on a regular basis and add at least 50-75% MORE. You will find you will need more space then you ever expected. I normally will do 6-8 butts at a time. I am capable of doing 25-30 depending on the size. I could also do 100# of sausage hanging from the rods at the top if needed. The foot print mine takes up is 30" x 40" (not counting the tank). I feel it a very manageable size for what it is. The other thing to drive the size is what you will use for shelving. Mine was designed as I built around the shelves I chose to use and the desire to not wase wood. So my cuts were planned to have very little waste or another project was in mind for the scraps....



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